Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form
Steven Posch

Steven Posch

Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Come Ye Thankful People, Come

The Autumn Equinox: it's a holiday of many names.

None of them—to be perfectly honest—quite there yet, if you know what I mean.

Equinox, of course, comes from Latin: “equal night.” It has the advantage of being readily comprehensible, at least. The down side is, of course, that it's ambiguous, since it's got a twin in the spring. And somehow it's got that clinical sound to it.

Then there's Evenday. This is a modern loan-translation from the word for “equinox” in the Scandinavian languages. (Interesting that, to describe a time when day and night are of equal length, the Southrons focus on night and the Northrons on day; make of that what you will.)

“Evenday” has a nice, colloquial sound to it, and is probably relatively transparent to anyone with light behind the eyes. Interestingly, it has already developed two pronunciations, and (curiously) I find myself using both of them: Even-day and Even-dee, just like the days of the week: the formal and less formal options, respectively.

Wishing folks a “Happy Evenday” has a good sound to it, certainly. But, of course, there's still that vernal-autumnal ambiguity.

So far as we can tell, the ancient Kelts did not observe the sunsteads and evendays as holidays (focusing instead on what we would call the “Cross-Quarters”), so there were no traditional names for them in any of the Keltic languages. To rectify this situation, Druidic Revivalists in the 19th century coined Welsh names for them; the autumn evenday is now called Alban Elfed (supposedly, “Light of [the] Waters”), and the name has gained a certain currency in Druidic circles.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks Ariel; the poem is the first verse of a song that we sing at the Harvest Supper every year, our version of a 19th century A
  • Ariel Aron
    Ariel Aron says #
    Nicely said I love reading your stuff. I also love the little poem.
  • Andrew
    Andrew says #
    "Usage determines correctness." No it doesn't. Pronouncing ask as arks does not make it correct no matter how many people do it,
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Given that living languages are in a constant state of change, Andrew, who then gets to decide what's correct?
  • Andrew
    Andrew says #
    Definitely not people who didn't know how to pronounce a word correctly in the first place.

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Fat Lady and the Animal Man

Some 30,000 years ago, they first appear: the Fat Lady and the Animal Man.

For 20,000 years after that, the ancestors kept making Fat Ladies and Animal Men.

We find their likenesses across Eurasia, literally from Spain to Siberia.

We don't know who they were or what they meant to the people that made them. Across such vast distances and time-spans, it's likely that they meant many things to many different people.

What's maybe most amazing is that, across those vast distances and time-spans, they're still recognizably themselves.

Some decades ago it became intellectually fashionable to deny that the Fat Lady and the Animal Man were gods. In the case of the Animal Man, the word shamanism got bandied about a lot: an explanation that explains very little, really.

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Thanks for the close reading and the corrections, Andrew. The development of agriculture is, of course, exactly what distinguishes
  • Andrew
    Andrew says #
    "Some decades ago it became intellectually fashionable to deny that the Fat Lady and the Animal Man were gods." Do we have any pr
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Nicely said.Cheers, Tasha

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Gods That Save

Who's your Savior?

Let me rephrase the question. If the plane were going down, Who would you call to?

The original (i.e. pagan) meaning of salvation had nothing to do with “sin.” As pagan things tend to be, it was actually quite pragmatic; concrete, even.

You're stuck in a bad situation. You need rescuing. What god (or goddess) do you call on?

In most pantheons, there's a specific god, or sometimes several, who gain a reputation as being good at getting people out of jams. These are the Savior gods.

Just Who that might be for you, of course, you would know better than I. For witches, it's Him o' the Horns. It makes sense that the animal god would be most concerned with the doings of animals like us. He's strong, he's quick, and (like all horn-bearers) he fights for his own. That's why he's known to witches as “Red Champion.”

Savior, of course, is a foreign word that came in with a foreign religion.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Nazis with Tiki Torches

Ritualist to the Third Reich Leni Riefenstahl must be spinning (widdershins, probably) in her grave.

Nazis with tiki torches.

Now ain't that pitiful.

They didn't even care enough to make themselves real torches.

If this had been a pagan event, of course, we would have had a community-wide Potluck and Torch-Making a few days before.

But for the organizers of the Charlottesville alt-Reich event, apparently buying bulk at the nearest minimum-wage Big Box store was good enough.

Sorry, folks: as a ritualist, I'm just not impressed. If this is the Great White Hope of the “white race” (whatever that means), I'm afraid the prognosis isn't very good.

Last modified on

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
When the Wights Are Angry

Hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, floods.

I'm not really saying that Republicans are responsible.

Not really.

We would say: climate change.

Traditional societies would say: the wights are angry.

(Wights: literally, “beings”: also, elves, fairies, huldrefolk, land-"spirits", etc.)

Two ways, perhaps, of describing the same thing.

Why are the wights angry?

Last modified on
Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I would say that the wights are the "interiority" of things. They're those Other People that inhabit the Land, that go by many nam
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    What is the definition of a Wight?
  • Mariah Sheehy
    Mariah Sheehy says #
    A couple years ago at the Irish Fair, I talked with Daithi Sproule, a traditional Irish musician who was retelling the old tales.
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I thoroughly agree; they seem to me like two different ways of observing the same phenomenon: one from without, one from within.
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I remember reading an article on Shamanism.org about the author's encounter with an angry cloud being. It seems the cloud being w

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Thinking Outside the Magic Circle

“I've never been to one of those kinds of rituals before!” the little girl enthused.

What she meant was a ritual with offerings and prayers. Clearly, the experience had come as something of a revelation.

We'd just completed our annual Offering to Minnehaha Falls. The priestess stands at the head of the Falls and makes the traditional threefold offering of water, meal, and flowers, while praying for life, sustenance, and inspiration for the People, for the year to come.

I don't know about where you live, but around here pagan ritual tends to involve casting circles, calling quarters, and raising cones. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's more to pagan ritual than summoning, stirring, and pointing knives at.

A lot more.

Last modified on
Recent comment in this post - Show all comments
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    Thanks for your lovely and well said column. As I learned long ago, it's not just about "church on Sundays" so to seak, it's havin

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Opening Lines

It's still one of the best opening lines that I've ever heard.

A buddy and I had gone over to 'Saint' Paul to check out the new Ethiopian restaurant.

While we were there, I noticed at a nearby table a woman with very intense eyes, giving the waiter a hard time.

Tough customer, I thought.

About halfway through the meal, I looked up to see the tough customer standing at our table. Those intense eyes were on me now.

“I like your pentagram,” she said, then paused. “I have one too.

Last modified on

Additional information